thumb image

Broward Commissioner Lamar Fisher’s May 2020 Newsletter

In his May 2020 Newsletter, District 4 Broward County Commissioner Lamar Fisher thanks constituents for “staying at home” and adhering to the terms in other COVID-19 Broward emergency orders, recognizes essential workers and volunteers for keeping the community afloat prior to the County’s May 18 kickoff of Phase 1, and suggests that hurricane season preparations include subscribing to notifications from ALERT!BROWARD.

Along with allocations to offset general COVID-19 containment costs, the County coughed up funding assistance for the homeless, for non-profit cultural organizations and $2.3 million for Broward Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci to shield voters from the pandemic in the 2020 primary and general elections. He relocated 12 at-risk polling sites, budgeted postage sufficient for sending vote-by-mail ballots to roughly 65% of the electorate for the next two years and acquired new equipment to print and process the ballots.

Fisher laments how the failure of many Broward residents to complete the 2020 Census input will hammer the County’s eligibility for State and Federal funding, threatening a decade of regular shortfalls typically billed to Broward taxpayers. The census data also determines Broward’s share of Federal representation (Congress) during the next decade.

The Stay Local Campaign

Destination DC (DDC) is the official marketing organization for the nation’s capital. Last November, DDC launched a consumer advertising campaign named “Stay Local DC”, which used deep discounts to draw DC residents into local shops and restaurants, and book staycations in Washington, DC hotels. It worked like a charm.

When officials began relieving mass containment restrictions first triggered by the pandemic after January, residents concerned by reopening plans that blew off CDC recovery prerequisites in order to salvage the economy suddenly realized that restaurant profits rated a higher priority than the lives of their families. The Stay Local enticements were used to cajole residents still leery about exposure into the marketplace. Proven effective, the marketing concept spread to jurisdictions across the country – including Broward County.

Fisher closes by endorsing the Stay Local Campaign as a vehicle for reviving the local economy. Marketing muscle ordinarily used by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau to attract visitors world-wide to South Florida destination sites was refocused on local residents who spent months bouncing off the walls of their homes while fending off a claustrophobic stupor. It combines the fear of traveling during a pandemic with a cash flow transfusion to struggling local businesse

Click here to read Commissioner Lamar Fisher’s May 2020 Newsletter.

 

 


thumb image

City Commissioner Heather Moraitis’ May 2020 Newsletter

In her May 2020 Newsletter, District 1 City Commissioner Heather Moraitis empathizes with our mid-May frustration with home-bound pandemic containment. Recognizing the difficulty of slowing the spread of COVID-19 in one of the State’s most heavily infected regions, Moraitis extols the collective efforts of State, County and City officials to quickly implement a unilateral lock-down, sharpen medical response capabilities and fast-track regional testing outreach.

While also applauding thousands of District 1 constituents for swallowing hard and complying with an exasperating set of evolving restrictions, Moraitis declares that the time has come to jump-start the stalled economy by “safely and smartly venturing out when appropriate,” admonishing “Please continue to follow guidelines.”

Presumably, Moraitis alludes to City or County guidelines, since no jurisdiction in South Florida is remotely compliant with recovery prerequisites specified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the White House Task Force. At the end of the day – each of us must balance this agenda with the wellbeing of our families.

Click here to read Commissioner Moraitis’ May Newsletter

 


thumb image

Coronavirus Mandates

Over the past few months, our perception of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) evolved from an unsettling rumor into a worldwide survival campaign. While researchers struggle to develop a cure or a vaccine, containment measures are being implemented across the planet. State, County and City administrations are enacting CDC preventive guidelines that sharply limit the opportunity for casual human contact, and deter the overlap of our respective “three to six-foot breathing zones” (as per the World Health Organization), thereby limiting exposure to potentially infected airborne droplets expelled by coughing, spitting or sneezing. Other emergency measures facilitate medical care, required or voluntary quarantine, economic relief, stay-at-home socialization alternatives, access to food, pharmaceuticals and essential supplies and services.

Governor Ron DeSantis

Specifically, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is issuing Executive Orders. Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry is releasing countywide Emergency Declarations and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis is mandating municipal Emergency regulations. Galt Mile co-ops and condominiums are also crafting association-specific rules that regulate contact among residents, employees, visitors and vendors along with access to resources. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR), which enforces Statutory provisions applicable to cooperative, condominium and homeowner associations, is issuing emergency orders that postpone regulatory deadlines for association boards, enable alternative governance protocols, and empower the naming of stand-ins to exercise the responsibilities of out-of-residence association officials.

Public officials serving local communities, such as the Galt Mile, are distributing constituent updates about these regulations and how they impact residents and businesses. A steady stream of newsletters and COVID-19 messages are being sent to Galt Mile residents and merchants by District 93 Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca, District 4 Broward Commissioner Lamar Fisher and District 1 Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Heather Moraitis. Since the content in these State, County and City emergency regulations is often overheard while passing from person to person, it is subject to the mischaracterizations and distortions of pool talk, muddying the facts for many local residents. To help dispel needless concerns about skewed information, and clarify how these official mandates change our lives, links to each order or declaration (including recovery measures) are segregated by jurisdiction and listed in an attached document.

PHASING IN COVID-19 RECOVERY

On April 19, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the creation of a Re-Open Florida Task Force to carefully revive specific economic and social interactions – hopefully without triggering the need for a second statewide COVID-19 shut down. On April 30, the Task Force released its Final Report, defining a multi-phase approach to reopening jurisdictions based on infection rates, testing capabilities, the burden on local medical services and other CDC criteria.

State and local officials are faced with a terrible choice – a possible spike in the death toll from relaxed containment OR increasing poverty, unemployment and economic deterioration. Like the popular deli TooJay’s, many local merchants have filed for bankruptcy, leaving thousands unemployed. Officials must cautiously relax restrictions since inadvertently boosting the infection rate could extend the pandemic.

Excluding Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties due to their higher late April infection rate statistics, DeSantis approved Phase 1 for Florida’s 64 other counties on May 4, allowing masked customers observing social distancing guidelines to enter restaurants and retail shops, but only at 25% capacity and if dining tables at outdoor venues were separated by at least 6 feet.

OPENING SOUTH FLORIDA COUNTIES

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis

Still in Phase 0, on April 29, 2020, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry issued Emergency Order 20-08, conditionally re-opening certain non-essential amenities in Broward County subject to CDC protective guidelines (social distancing, facial coverings, etc.). The order applies to certain parks, natural areas, boat ramps, marinas, golf courses and common area pool facilities serving multi-family homes – such as condominiums. Later that day, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis followed suit, specifying which of the amenities named by Henry would initially be re-opened in the City.

Although still barred by the State from re-opening any beaches, the Broward order was prompted by improving medical statistics deemed relevant by the CDC (i.e. the rate of new infections dropped below 10%, declining impact on area hospitals, etc.) Henry’s order identifies those exempt from the facial covering requirement (Section 7), including children under the age of two, persons who otherwise have difficulty breathing, food service employees (when wearing a mask could pose a hazard), first responders whose personal protective equipment (PPE) is determined by their respective agencies, and those raising a religious objection.

Having crafted an incremental list of stringent safety measures, the Galt Mile Community Association (GMCA) relentlessly pressured State, County and City officials to safely re-open the neighborhood’s private beach. Hastening local recovery would require strict adherence to CDC containment protocols in beachfront associations. With the exception of a few self-absorbed morons, the Galt Mile community has been a model of compliance.

GMCA President Pio Ieraci

At a May 4 GMCA ZOOM video conference, District 1 City Commissioner Heather Moraitis, District 4 County Commissioner Lamar Fisher and Statehouse Representative Chip LaMarca reviewed methodologies with officials from member associations to facilitate beach access and secure Phase 1 status in South Florida.

On May 8, although newly released Broward Emergency Order 20-09 still restricted beach access, the Governor announced that Palm Beach County could move into Phase 1 on May 11 (Executive Order 2020-120), and the Palm Beach County Commission voted to open their beaches on May 18. Citing the positive COVID-19 trending in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties, DeSantis said “Our target for them, we’d like to see them move into Phase 1 on May 18.”

In daily contact, County Commissioner Lamar Fisher continually updated GMCA President Pio Ieraci about his struggle to include a specific date for beach access in the next Broward Emergency Order, which would either reflect or possibly expedite the Governor’s anticipated May 18 Phase 1 approval in Broward. We’d soon be able to walk on the beach, shop in stores, eat in a restaurant or finally get a haircut. When DeSantis signed Executive Order #2020-122 on May 14, approving Phase 1 in Broward on May 18, the County immediately issued Emergency Order 20-10, enabling the limited re-opening of restaurants, retail shops, personal services, gyms, salons, movie theaters, community rooms and recreational amenities in multifamily housing developments (condos and co-ops), museums, public community pools, private club pools, and other services and amenities.

At a discrete May 14 meeting, a group of mayors and commissioners from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties explored impending Phase 1 impacts. Officials representing the three South Florida counties had previously agreed to re-open simultaneously to bar the prospect of customers in restricted counties flocking to merchants in a neighboring county that re-opened earlier. When Palm Beach County officials engineered a Gubernatorial approval of Phase 1 on May 11, a week before Miami-Dade and Broward would earn Phase 1 status on May 18, they trashed that agreement, and provided Palm Beach merchants with a week-long clear field to usurp revenues that would ordinarily support businesses in Broward and Miami-Dade. Officials at the meeting observed how this inequitable disparity further burdened businesses desperately struggling to survive the COVID-19 shutdown.

To offset the fact that neither Broward nor Miami-Dade had met the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide criteria for a Phase 1 reopening on May 18 (two weeks of declining deaths and new cases), officials at the meeting agreed to increase COVID-19 testing and continue the strict enforcement of CDC requirements for facial coverings, disinfection, and social distancing. In addressing beach access, officials feared that if crowds drawn by Memorial Day weekend sales and events (May 23 – May 25) also packed newly opened beaches, the infection rate could explode. As such, Broward officials decided to delay re-opening the beaches until after the holiday weekend – on May 26.

BEACHES REOPEN MAY 26

To diminish the prospect of a second lockdown by ensuring compliance with CDC safety protocols, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry issued Emergency Order 20-12 on May 21, specifying strict enforcement of Phase 1 limitations on each re-opened venue. Under pressure to round out Phase 1, Henry released Emergency Order 20-13 on May 22, which finally sanctioned the May 26 re-opening of Broward beaches, along with Commercial Gyms and Fitness Centers, Hotels, Motels and other Commercial Lodging Establishments.

Beginning on May 26, Broward beaches will be open from sunrise to sunset for swimming, surfing, walking, running, biking, kayaking, paddle boarding and body surfing. While barred from using umbrellas, canopies, chairs, loungers, or coolers, beachgoers are also prohibited from picnicking, playing sports, sunbathing, sitting, lying down or gathering in a group of more than 10 people. Except for members of the same household or group, people must be separated by a minimum of six feet (6’). After flooding our beaches, thousands of visitors from Miami-Dade, where the beaches weren’t approved for re-opening until June 1 – will likely compete for sharply limited restaurant seating.

Given the 50% maximum occupancy restriction on nonessential retail venues, merchants desperate to salvage their livelihoods must decide if revenues from a truncated customer base will cover the cost of fully staffed Restaurants and Retail shops. Some vendors will keep their doors closed until Phase 2 relief improves prospects for a sustainable cost/benefit while others will justify financing initial shortfalls to expedite a return to solvency.

In short, since the City and County recovery plans grossly compromised CDC protective guidelines in order to restart the economy, Broward residents seeking to avoid a second containment order – or simply survive the pandemic – are facing a series of judgement calls about whether destination sites are survivable or prelude to a dirt nap. If cutting the unemployment rate doesn’t significantly increase the Medical Examiner’s workload, we’re out of the woods. If it does, we could once again confront the mysteries of Grubhub, FaceTime, ZOOM Video Conferencing and a long-term home-bound lockdown.

WHITE HOUSE VS. CDC

On April 17, the White House released an “Opening Up America Again” plan that cherry-picked elements of the CDC recovery requirements, but with a major caveat. The Administration faults the Governor of any State in which the plan fails. On April 30, a far more elaborate CDC plan called “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework” was shelved by the White House, as its detailed guidance threatened to impede a speedy recovery.

For instance, a huge number of the 2 million positive COVID-19 cases and 113,000 deaths in the US by June 11 were corollary to non-essential travel. The CDC report states, “Travel patterns within and between jurisdictions will impact efforts to reduce community transmission. Coordination across state and local jurisdictions is critical — especially between jurisdictions with different mitigation needs.”

Although unrestricted travel poses a significant threat to pandemic containment, the White House plan lifts the ban on non-essential travel in Phase 2 – which was approved in Florida on June 3 (excluding Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties), while the CDC plan requires a decreasing number of new cases for 42 days before approving casual travel.

Despite initially requiring jurisdictions to delay reopening plans until the number of new cases – or infection rates – declined for 14 days and medical facilities were no longer overwhelmed, once the White House shifted reopening responsibilities to state and local officials, those mandates devolved into nonbinding suggestions. As a result, case counts and positive test rates are increasing in more than half the states approved for reopening.

Having relieved state and local officials of compliance requirements with the White House plan, President Trump is pressuring Governors to reopen their respective economies without exploding the pandemic. To balance the White House economic objective with sufficient safeguards to dodge a far more disastrous second lockdown, the CDC would have to detail guidelines for the patchwork of reopening plans underway across the country.

Asserting that the CDC’s 63-page missive was too prescriptive, Administration officials concluded that applying its complex schedule of protections would delay the recovery. They attacked the CDC for crafting detailed recovery measures for each type of business and social venue. While the CDC plan would curb local resurgences of COVID-19 across the country, on May 13, Senator Mike Braun (R – Indiana) blocked a Senate resolution to release the CDC plan, stating “The Guide would bog down the economy.”

On May 20, the administration approved a greatly generalized CDC revision entitled “CDC Activities and Initiatives Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening America Up Again”, which provides State and local officials with the option to implement the CDC guidance or ad lib their way through this nightmare.

Fortunately, Broward is among the few Florida counties that pushed back when pressured to jump on Phase 1 and Phase 2 integration protocols. Instead, Broward County Administrator Bertha Henry issued a series of Emergency Orders that implemented CDC monitoring and mitigation measures specific to each of the newly reopened businesses and social venues. This should help the County quickly address any spike in new cases, given the increased exposure inherent in an economic reopening driven by guesswork and politics.

Of course, given that research into this virus is still in its infancy, largely experimental recovery measures have fueled a passionate nationwide controversy. Officials at every level of government are walking on eggshells since the only bulletproof defense against a second containment shut down would be a vaccine or a cure, projected for some time next year – and the first 150 million doses will go to first responders worldwide – so don’t hold your breath. Click here for the executive orders and emergency declarations (updated regularly as issued) from the state, county and local government governing this eclectic excursion into the Twilight Zone.   

 


thumb image

Update and City Resources Available on COVID-19

City Commissioner Heather Moraitis provided the following update from the City of Fort Lauderdale on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). We appreciate the leadership, time and effort Commissioner Moraitis has put into helping guide our city during this unique health crisis. She has been fabulous in her communications to residents and Facebook posts, keeping us as up to date as possible, given how quickly events are changing in the city, county, state and federal government. The City of Fort Lauderdale has numerous emergency regulations in place regarding operations and services, buildings and facilities, openings and closures, public meetings, events, public gatherings, and promoting social distancing in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the healthcare system is not overwhelmed. To see the latest updates on current regulations, please visit www.fortlauderdale.gov/coronavirus.

We also appreciate the leadership and commitment being made by County Commissioner Lamar Fisher and State Representative Chip LaMarca, both of whom have done an excellent job of communicating updated information to all of us.

Additional links to Centers for Disease Control, Department of Business and Professional Regulations, and Broward County Sheriff about actions on Coronavirus can be found on the Regency Tower website.


thumb image

Galt Mile Beaches Reopen Tuesday, May 26

UPDATE:  Effective June 1, use of the Galt Mile beaches will be expanded to allow picnicking, sunbathing, sitting, or lying on the beach, as well as the use of umbrellas, canopies, chairs, loungers and coolers. The original restrictions were in place to keep people moving on the beach and prevent overcrowding.  The restrictions still include no group gatherings or events of more than 10 people and no group or organized sports, like volleyball. County Administrator Bertha Henry issued Emergency Order 20-14 on Friday, May 29, which further addresses Phase 1 reopening guidelines to slightly expand beach activities as described above.

County Administrator Bertha Henry issued Emergency Order 20-13 on Friday, May 22, which extends Phase 1 reopening guidelines to beaches, commercial gyms and commercial fitness centers, hotels and other commercial lodging, with restrictions, effective Tuesday, May 26.

Pio Ieraci

The Galt Mile Community Association, under the leadership of President Pio Ieraci, has been working directly with County Commissioner Lamar Fisher on getting our Galt Mile beaches reopened, but doing so in a safe manner.  “We appreciate all the efforts and support from Commissioner Fisher in achieving this goal – and we are excited to be able to return to our beautiful Galt beaches – even with the restrictions placed on their use at this time” stated Pio Ieraci.  All residents and associations are strongly urged to abide

County Comm. Lamar Fisher

by these guidelines to protect our fellow residents and not place our beaches in jeopardy of being closed due to flagrant violations.

 

 

Highlights of the new order include:

Beaches Open:  All beaches can open with limited hours (sunrise to sunset). Ocean activities such as surfing, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and body surfing are allowed; also walking, running and biking.

Beach Restrictions for Now:  Like other communities across the country, Broward beaches are not yet open for picnicking, sunbathing, sitting or lying on the beach. Group or organized sports (such as volleyball), umbrellas, canopies, chairs, loungers and coolers are also not yet allowed, and no group gatherings of more than 10 people. Beachgoers must maintain social distancing (six feet of separation), except between members of the same household or groups.

Vacation Rentals:  Vacation rentals are open, but only for essential lodgers, as authorized by the Governor’s Executive Order 20-87.

Enforcement is critical to the success of the reopening strategy, to ensure that a spike in new cases does not occur, which could result in another complete or partial shutdown. County and Health Department officials are monitoring benchmarks that will help identify the emergence of “hotspots” that can be quickly mitigated.

Law enforcement and code enforcement agencies are authorized to enforce the requirements of the Emergency Order. Failure to comply can result in civil or criminal penalties, including fines, imprisonment or both. Residents can also report violations anonymously online at MyBroward.Broward.org, or by calling the Broward County Call Center at 311 or 954-831-4000.

These re-openings are in addition to those outlined in Emergency Order 20-12 issued May 21. Because COVID-19, however, remains a serious threat to public safety, the social distancing, facial covering and sanitation requirements remain in place for businesses that reopen, and the individuals who patronize them.

Broward County has been under a Local State of Emergency since March 10. For the latest updates, visit FloridaHealth.gov, email COVID-19@flhealth.gov or call the COVID Call Center at 954-357-9500. To learn what Broward County is doing to keep our community safe, visit Broward.org/Coronavirus.






thumb image

Broward Commissioner Lamar Fisher’s March 2020 Newsletter

Commentary:  In his March 2020 Newsletter, District 4 Broward Commissioner Lamar Fisher opens by citing how County Administrator Bertha Henry echoed Governor Ron DeSantis’ COVID-19 Executive Orders 

with a Declaration of Emergency. Henry later tailored the Declaration to subsequent gubernatorial mandates with two extensions and 7 Emergency Orders.

Fisher applauds Port Everglades’ eligibility for $29.1 million in “New Start” funding allocated to the construction of a new Coast Guard Station. As State grants and port revenues fund the balance of almost $10 million, the Army Corps of Engineers will oversee widening the Intracoastal Waterway by 250 feet, enabling Port Everglades to access the economic windfall reaped by those few ports with clearance sufficient for huge Neo-Panamax cargo vessels.

 Six years after Broward County implemented a voter-mandated Consolidated Emergency Dispatch System on October 1, 2014, municipal firefighters still hit the brakes when they reach their City’s borders, even if the flames are in spitting distance.  Broward Emergency 911 officials finally launched the long-delayed county-wide “Closest Unit Response.” Beginning in March, Fisher reports that Sunrise, Lauderhill, North Lauderdale, Oakland Park, Tamarac and Fort Lauderdale will integrate GPS with Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) to automatically locate and dispatch the closest properly equipped first responder, a protocol planned for every Broward municipality by the end of 2021.

After exhorting how failure to flesh out the upcoming 2020 Census count will cripple future State and/or Federal grants and subsidies while leaving Broward residents underrepresented in Congress, Fisher invites constituent input to help set priorities for the first Broward Parks and Recreation Division Master Plan.

Read on for Commissioner Lamar Fisher’s March 2020 Newsletter